Levin calls the conclusion of a recently released Veterans Administration advisory committee report “stunning.”
“Not a single VA facility anywhere in the United States is named after a woman veteran,” he notes.
Calling this unacceptable, on Veterans Day, Levin announced his formation of an advisory panel of veterans, active military and others, chaired by Carlsbad Army veteran Karin Brennan.
The committee’s orders are to come back before Memorial Day with recommendations of worthy female veterans with ties to this region deserving the honor of having a VA facility bear their name.
The VA operates two eligible facilities in San Diego County — the San Diego VA Medical Center and the Oceanside VA Clinic.
Brennan is overjoyed to not only help honor a deserving veteran, but a woman veteran. “So many people are unaware of how many women have served and also been injured and died in the service of our country,” she says.
A veteran of Cold War intelligence operations behind the Iron Curtain, Brennan says she was inspired by women such as Capt. Lillian Daly, the first female Marine to serve at Camp Pendleton a year after the base was dedicated in 1942.
Currently there are 2 million female U.S. military veterans (about 10 percent of the veteran population), according to VA statistics. The proportion of women is expected to climb to 18 percent within 25 years.
Brennan has asked the Women In Military Service For America Memorial Foundation in Arlington, Va., which has an extensive database, for information regarding women service members tied to San Diego area zip codes. “We’ll be doing quite an extensive search,” she says.
There are two major caveats: They must be deceased, and they must have a connection to this area.
Several suggestions of worthy women were received after Levin, who sits on the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, announced his inclusionary branding proposal.
Many local women know lots of military women who’ve done remarkable things and would love to see them honored, Brennan says. She agrees, but one major problem re-surfaces. “They’re still with us,” Brennan says. “I don’t want anyone to die for the honor.”
The Veterans Administration, while agreeing in concept with its advisory committee’s recommendation, pointed out that it can’t implement these name changes without a Congressional directive.
So after his 11-member committee returns with a list of women with local ties deserving of the honor, Levin plans to draft legislation to present to Congress, which has the authority to name federal property after people.
Levin’s team has contacted numerous veterans groups — including Veterans Services Organization, Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion posts — and will speak with local legislative colleagues to generate bipartisan support.
Brennan suspects she may get some push back from people who don’t welcome the change but is steeled for it.
A similar bill introduced by Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., sailed through the House and awaits Senate approval. It proposes naming a VA health care facility in Manhattan the Margaret Cochran Corbin Campus of the New York Harbor Health Care System. Corbin, who died in 1789, fought alongside her husband in the Revolutionary War.
If not passed by the Senate and signed by President Donald Trump before he leaves office, the bill would have to be re-introduced. That means San Diego could possibly become the first to break the VA facility female recognition barrier.
The name change proposals are designed to create a more welcoming environment for women veterans and let them know that their service matters.
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